September 19, 2011 - Monday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

“The Lord has done marvels for us.” The Israelites proclaimed this when King Cyrus allowed them to go home to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Ezekiel tells us that King Cyrus was inspired by God to make this decree. He was probably not aware of this inspiration. He probably just considered it a good political move. The historical data we have about King Cyrus tells us that he let all the exiled people, from every country in his empire, return to their home cities and rebuild their temples.

Seventy years earlier, when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, tore down the temple and burned Jerusalem to the ground, things did not seem so promising. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to destroy all the religions on earth except Babylon’s, so he made everyone switch countries and destroyed all the temples. This way, no one would remember their nationality and they would just think of themselves as Babylonian.

Even before it was destroyed, the prophets promised that Jerusalem would be rebuilt seventy years later. This seemed unlikely under Nebuchadnezzar with his new ideas about how the world should live. Then Babylon was conquered by Persia and Cyrus became the new king of the world, and Cyrus had a different strategy: he made everyone move home and build new temples.

Kings come and kings go. Sometimes politics favor the Church and sometimes not. There is no political leader, present, past, or future, who will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, but every government will bring about God’s will. God wanted Jerusalem destroyed, so Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it. God wanted Jerusalem rebuilt, so Cyrus rebuilt it. God wanted Jerusalem to be occupied by a foreign army when he came as Jesus Christ, so the Romans conquered it. The kings of this world are always doing God’s will in spite of their intentions.

And this is not some special status that governments have. All of us will play a part in the history of salvation. If we do so willingly, we can cooperate with God. If we do so unwillingly or unknowingly, we will do help bring about the Kingdom nonetheless. It is not for us to choose whether we will help make God’s kingdom come, we can only choose whether we will be part of that kingdom as it inevitably does arrive. Jesus has already won the war. The question now is whether we will join the winning side.